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Bil’in Will Never Surrender…

May 13, 2009

 Four years ago, construction started on the Separation Wall through the middle Bil’in, a village outside of Ramallah.  They have lost about 60% of their land—agricultural land where most of the income of the village was made. 

 The people of Bil’in have taken their case to the Israeli Supreme Court many times.  In September 2007, the Israeli Supreme Court finally ruled that the path of the separation wall was prejudicial to Bil’in and must be altered.  This decision should have allowed Bil’in to regain almost 50% of the land that was stolen in 2004. 

 Despite all of these decisions, and the international laws that find the wall illegal, construction continues; and Bil’in’s land continues to be stolen.

 To protest the theft of their land, the people of Bil’in have organized weekly, non-violent demonstrations against the wall.  Every Friday, the villagers, internationals, and press gather beside the mosque; and after Friday prayer they walk together to the wall.

 Israel’s response to these non-violent demonstrations is teargas, rubber bullets, rubber coated steel bullets, sound bombs, and live ammunition. 

 Three weeks ago, the Israeli soldiers murdered a peaceful demonstrator in Bil’in for the first time.  His name was Bassem Abu Rahmah, and they shot him in the chest from 30 meters away with a new high velocity teargas canister that is shaped like a bullet.  He died on the way to the hospital in Ramallah.

 Despite the dangers, the demonstrations have not stopped.

 Monther Abu Rahmah, a villager from Bil’in, has been going to the demonstrations since they began four years ago.  His family has lost 15 dunams of their land because of the wall. 

 He has been injured at the demonstrations twice, one time he was shot in the hand and one time in the shoulder. 

 He says that the “demonstrations at the beginning were completely different…In the beginning it wasn’t too dangerous to go to the demonstrations, but now every Friday it becomes more dangerous.”

 Each demonstration is unpredictable according to Monther, “Every time they use a different kind of teargas, sometimes they enter the village, sometimes they stay behind the wall, sometimes they just sit and watch, and other times they fire ammunition.”

 But every move the soldiers make is decided before-hand; it makes no difference how many demonstrators are there or how many stones are thrown, “They have their orders before, they decide whether they will shoot teargas or bullets.”

 The Israeli soldiers raid Bil’in regularly; sometimes after the demonstrations but more often during the night. 

When the soldiers come into the village, Monther says that “we try to group all of the guys together so the soldiers can’t kidnap or arrest anyone.  When we are together, we are strong.  If someone gets shot while he is alone, he can bleed to death.  But if we are all together, if someone gets hurt we can help him quickly and not let anything happen to him.”

 Monther is one of the villagers from Bil’in that has taken volunteer paramedic courses through Palestine Medical Relief Services (PMRS), offered by Mustafa Barghouthi and his political party, Mubadara. 

 PMRS started the paramedic training in 1996 because of the increase in violence in the West Bank and because it often occurs in isolated areas where the people do not have access to medical services.  In situations where there are injuries, if there is no one around who is trained in first aid, people who are trying to help will often complicate the injury instead.

 So, PMRS set up volunteer paramedic courses to train people in emergency first aid.  These programs are especially important in isolated villages, like Bil’in, where the nearest hospital is half an hour away.

 Monther is now a volunteer paramedic and will be able to help people if they get injured during the weekly demonstrations in Bil’in and the nearby village Ni’lin, and also during the Israeli raids in the village. 

 When asked if he thought the demonstrations would have any effect on the wall, when court decisions and international law have not, Monther replied, “The wall is the wall, nothing has changed.  The demonstrations and throwing stones is about our history and our culture.  It’s a sad story, our people’s story.  We are a people without land.”

 “We have tried to get our land back with peace, but Israel responds to the peace with war.  Because of this, we will always be in war for our land, never in peace.  They will try to keep decreasing our land until we are in a small circle, then they will finish us.”

 When asked what he thought could stop the Israelis from stealing more land, Monther responded, “Our God—not me, not you, not even anyone.  Only God can stop them.  We go to the demonstrations to show them that we will not surrender, this is our land, and we will be survivors until the end.”

 

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